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BYD Dolphin Review & Prices

The Dolphin is a well-priced, well-equipped and practical electric hatchback, although you don’t get auto wipers and some of the interior materials aren’t quite as soft-touch as they look

Buy or lease the BYD Dolphin at a price you’ll love
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RRP £30,195 - £31,695 Avg. Carwow saving £1,239 off RRP
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£28,986
Monthly
£303*
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2024
Smart Spender Award
Highly Commended
wowscore
8/10
Reviewed by Paul Barker after extensive testing of the vehicle.

What's good

  • Excellent levels of standard equipment
  • Good space for four adult passengers
  • Very competitively priced

What's not so good

  • Interior quality is a bit mixed
  • Bigger battery only available on higher trim levels
  • Thick pillars don’t help visibility

Find out more about the BYD Dolphin

Is the BYD Dolphin a good car?

The BYD Dolphin is a mid-sized electric hatchback bringing good levels of equipment and decent practicality, as well as a low starting price – all attributes that made it highly commended in the Smart Spender category of the 2024 Carwow Car of the Year Awards.

Chinese brand BYD launched in the UK with the Atto 3 SUV, and its second model, also all-electric, is the Dolphin. Think of it as a pocket telescope - not impressive in size, but its compact dimensions belie its abilities to show users more than they bargained for. 

For example, the entry car’s price undercuts potential alternatives such as the MG 4, and significantly undercuts the likes of the Cupra Born, VW ID3 and Smart #1, as well as the smaller Renault Zoe and Peugeot e-208. But equipment levels impress, with kit including electrically adjustable vegan leather seats, a 360-degree surround camera and 12.8-inch rotatable screen all standard on even the entry car. But only the cars over £30,000 get the longer-range battery.

And yep, rotatable. At the touch of a button, as long as you’re not using the landscape-only Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, the big infotainment screen will switch from landscape to portrait or back again. Most people will pick a layout and stick with it, but a neat party trick nonetheless.

The Dolphin comes in four different trim levels, only two of which offer the same battery, power, range and charging stats. At the bottom is the Active which has 95hp and a 211-mile range, while the top-spec Design has 204hp and 265 miles of range. We’ll go into more detail on the different options later on, and the two lower-price cars aren't available until a couple of months after launch. 

Once past the slightly odd name, the Dolphin has a subtly inoffensive style to it; nothing likely to court car park controversy, but it’s neat enough. 

On the inside, there is plenty to catch the eye, from the rounded set of switches below the screen that also house the gear selector, to the sweeping air vent surrounds that form part of a dynamic line across the dashboard.

Be aware that the bigger battery is only available with the more expensive Dolphin models - the more affordable ones are comparatively down on range

Mat Watson
Mat Watson
Carwow expert

Rear seat space is surprisingly good for a car that doesn’t have a big footprint, with taller adults easily able to get comfortable one behind the other. That’s helped by the flat floor – a result of clever battery packaging – and the fact that you can get your feet just about under the front seats. Three rear passengers will be a squeeze though, which isn’t a big surprise in a fairly compact hatchback. 

Boot space is reasonable, and there’s a handy removable rubber mat to keep wet dogs or muddy boots off the carpeted moveable boot floor. It’s a deep space when set in the lower position, and offers a little more room that a Smart #1, Renault Zoe or MG 4, although not quite as much as a Volkswagen ID3 or Cupra Born.

To drive, the most powerful of the three power options is a little too powerful for the tyres, especially in the wet where they have a tendency to easily spin the wheels. BYD has acknowledged they’re not perfect, and will be changing the tyres it fits to the Dolphin for cars built from November 2023. Otherwise it’s a pleasant and relaxed experience, although the car doesn’t always smooth itself over urban bumps. But it’s grown-up enough to settle in fine on longer runs, and the light steering is welcome for low-speed manoeuvring, although at higher speeds the standard setting is too light for engaging or spirited driving. It can be altered in the menus though, which helps. 

Much like the Fiat 500e, the Dolphin’s smaller battery should be ignored by anyone venturing far from home. The lower range is fine for urban jaunts, but the extra capacity of the bigger battery provides significant peace of mind. 

The Dolphin looks neat and tidy without breaking any new ground styling-wise, and is a well-rounded, well-equipped and practical car that opens up the electric hatchback choices even further.

See how much a BYD Dolphin costs to buy through Carwow, or check out the full range of BYD models. If you’ve got a vehicle you need to sell to help fund your new purchase, you can also sell your current car through Carwow.

How much is the BYD Dolphin

The BYD Dolphin has a RRP range of £30,195 to £31,695. However, with Carwow you can save on average £1,239. Prices start at £28,986 if paying cash. Monthly payments start at £303.

Our most popular versions of the BYD Dolphin are:

Model version Carwow price from
150kW Comfort 60.4kWh Auto £28,986 Compare offers

The Dolphin has an impressively low starting price for a car this size, although you have to look past the bottom two trim levels and to the Comfort model at just over £30,000 if you want the 265-mile range battery. 

But all cars are well-equipped, with even the entry Active car, which costs a little over £26,000, getting some surprisingly high-end equipment including electrically adjustable vegan leather seats, 12.8-inch rotating touchscreen, 360-degree camera and 16-inch alloy wheels. Metallic paint, keyless entry, adaptive cruise control and a host of safety kit are all also among what is a comprehensive set of standard equipment on a car at this price point. But the Active entry level car does only come with a 95hp motor and the smaller 44.9kWh battery.

Next up is Boost, which for £1,000 upgrades the alloy wheels to 17-inch, adds multi-link rear suspension and swaps the 95hp motor for a 176hp version, although the smaller battery is still present. 

The step from Boost to Comfort is a larger £3,000, but that does bring in a 60.4kWh battery, as well as a more powerful 204hp motor. That extra cash also brings front parking sensors, heated front seats and an uprated audio system. 

Then at the top is Design, which for another £1,500 adds a panoramic glass roof, wireless phone charging and rear privacy glass, as well as some neat tri-colour alloy wheels and two-tone paintwork with a different-coloured roof. 

Oddly, auto wipers aren’t available on any model.

Performance and drive comfort

The top-spec model proves that 204hp is more than enough for a mid-sized hatchback. The Dolphin is, ironically for a sea mammal, most at home in town, and isn’t the most engaging on a country road 

In town

The strong and instantaneous performance of electric vehicles makes for easy progress around town, as do the car’s small dimensions, and the Dolphin’s light steering is a boon. Visibility isn’t perfect, both the front and rear door pillars are quite thick so the forward view at roundabouts and over-the-shoulder rear visibility isn't optimal. It’s also a shame that the regeneration braking levels when you lift off the accelerator are mild - there’s a normal mode and one to increase the regen, but even on the higher level it’s very mild, where other cars have the ability to come to a halt, rather than having to use the brakes. No one-pedal driving here. 

Although the ride can be a little hard and imperfections in the road are felt rather than absorbed, the Dolphin copes well with the likes of speed bumps and other urban obstacles. All cars get rear parking sensors and a 360-degree camera – impressive that even the entry car gets that – and the two highest trim levels add front sensors. Other useful kit in town is a warning when you’re about to open the door into the path of another road user, while the top two trims also get folding heated door mirrors.

On the motorway

The Dolphin feels grown up and sensible on the motorway; there’s a little road noise but not much wind noise as it cruises along happily at higher speeds. The punchier 204hp motor means you’re quickly up to speed on a slip road or off a roundabout. 

The safety system count also works well in keeping you secure and reducing fatigue on a long journey. As well as adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, you’ll find driver fatigue and traffic sign recognition systems. 

On a twisty road

The key thing to make sure your Dolphin doesn’t feel like a porpoise out of water when you hit your favourite B-road is to dive into the touch-screen menus to switch the steering to its sportier setting. Separate to the general Sport setting, there’s a function that transforms the steering weight from its light-and-twirly town feel, to a more meaty weighting that gives you confidence in taking bends. 

It can’t increase tyre grip though, so until they’re sorted late this year, tread a little carefully on wet roads, especially when accelerating, but it’s otherwise a sensible level of fun. We’re not talking hot hatch fun, but body roll is well controlled so it doesn’t feel like you're throwing passengers around.

Space and practicality

Impressive interior space, especially for rear passengers, although there’s not a lot of cleverness to the boot area, and no storage under the bonnet

Hop into a BYD Dolphin and you’ll find an attractive cabin with plenty of cubby holes and storage. The driving position is easily adjusted thanks to standard electric seats across the whole line-up, and a neat touch is that the small dashboard display moves with the steering wheel so no matter where you move the wheel, you can see it through the spokes. The rotating gear selector is on the end of a short bar of buttons, so neatly tucked away.

There are lots of little places to stash wallets or keys, and a huge open area beneath the armrest that’s matched by a huge glovebox. The door bins are more average in size and not lined, so anything dropped into them makes a noise as it slides around, but the doors themselves shut with a reassuring thump that proves we’re not dealing with a cheap car. 

There are a pair of cupholders that will take a decent-sized bottle or coffee. 

Space in the back seats

Back seat passengers will be pleased with your car choice, with tall people able to sit one behind the other in the Dolphin despite the front seats being fairly chunky. It helps that you can just about squeeze your feet under the front seats,  which helps in finding a comfortable position, and that the floor is nice and flat.

Headroom is just about fine, although the big door pillar makes it a little dark in the back, especially for cars lower than the top-spec Design that don’t have a panoramic glass roof. The rear windows aren’t that big either, which doesn’t help with letting the light in. 

The middle seat is much narrower than the outer two, so only really suitable for smaller people. Three adults isn’t really an option, unless they’re very good friends. The ISOFIX points are easily accessible, and there are two in the back and one on the front seat.

The rear door bins are a reasonable size, although not lined, and rear passengers get a pair of USB sockets, as well as one cupholder to fight over in the middle. Two more appear when you drop the centre armrest.

Boot space

The Dolphin’s boot space is broadly in line with electric hatchbacks at 345 litres, rising to 1,310 with the rear seats folded. That compares with 289 litres in the MG 4, 323 litres in the Smart #1 and 311 in Peugeot’s e-208, while the Renault Zoe is also a touch behind at 338 litres. The more expensive Volkswagen ID3 and Cupra Born each have a luggage area of 385 litres.

The Dolphin’s boot is a split floor arrangement, with a big area underneath when it’s in the higher position - more than enough to stash the charging cables. Which is handy as there’s no frunk under the small bonnet. 

Drop the floor and it’s a decent shape and size for carrying stuff, although that does mean a hefty lip to heave heavier items over. You get pockets either side for keeping smaller things safe, but the parcel shelf feels a bit flimsy. 

The rear seats drop in a 60:40 configuration, but you need to have the boot floor in the higher position to offer up a flat area to slide longer or chunkier loads across. 

Interior style, infotainment and accessories

Clever rotating screen is a novelty party piece in a cabin that looks smart and stylish. Infotainment could do with some shortcut buttons though, as too much goes through the screen

At first glance the cabin looks great, with plenty of style and different materials making for an interior that’s far from plain. But prodding closer does reveal some of the materials aren’t quite as soft-touch as they look. It’s still nice, but in keeping with the pricing rather than masquerading as a premium car. 

There are a pair of USBs and a 12V socket up front, as well as a wireless charging pad on top-spec cars.

The Dolphin’s biggest party piece is its rotating screen. Yep, the 12.8-inch infotainment screen can rotate from portrait to landscape at the touch of a button. As long as you’re not using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, where it will stay landscape. It’s a neat trick, if slightly pointless as most people will just stick with the one layout. Fun though. 

Less good is the lack of shortcut buttons to help navigate between screens. To go from using CarPlay to change the temperature by one degree and back to where you were again is nine presses or swipes, which isn’t massively convenient compared to the old fashioned way of just pressing a button or turning a knob in the cabin. 

There is also voice control for those inclined to use that functionality, but all-in-all it could be a touch more user-friendly by just retaining a few extra buttons. That would though upset the clean lines of the cabin. 

Electric range, emissions and tax

Three different battery and motor combinations across four models seems a bit much, but there’s at least logical progression between them.

The entry car is the most efficient, with the 211-mile range from a 44.9kWh battery equating to 4.7 miles per kWh. That’s the Active spec, which comes with a 95hp motor. 

Next up is the Boost spec, which combines the same battery size with a 176hp motor, and that big rise in power doesn’t help efficiency, with the 193 miles equating to an official 4.3mi/kWh. 

The top two specifications - Comfort and Design - share the same battery and motor combo, so both offer an official 265-mile range from a bigger 60.4kWh battery, which works out at 4.4mi/kWh. 

Charging speeds also differ between the two battery sizes. At home, the larger battery is capable of charging at up to 11kW compared with 7kW for the smaller one, and at public charging points the bigger battery can take charge at up to 88kW, which still isn’t that fast, while the smaller takes electrons at a slower rate that BYD hasn’t yet confirmed. But it has said that cars with the larger battery will charge from 10-80% in 40 minutes while the smaller one is just two minutes quicker despite needing less electricity to fill it up. 

Also worthy of note is that BYD fits a heat pump as standard to all cars. That device helps maintain the vehicle’s range when the temperature drops, which is a recognised problem for EVs when winter comes around. 

As with all electric vehicles, they’re exempt from congestion charge and low emissions zones, as well as Vehicle Excise Duty, until 2025 at least, where they will drop into the lowest band. Company car tax is also heavily weighted towards electric vehicles. 

Safety and security

The Dolphin hasn’t yet been tested by Euro NCAP, although the BYD Atto 3 SUV did score the maximum five stars when it was tested, which shows safety is a focus for the Chinese brand. 

Backing up that point is the raft of safety kit included, with all cars getting as standard seven airbags, high-beam assist, driver fatigue detection, adaptive cruise control, blind spot and lane-keep assist functions and an alert to stop you opening the door if there’s something approaching that you’ll step out in front of.

Reliability and problems

A worry with any newer brand is reliability, but BYD is backing itself with an impressive six-year, 93,750-mile warranty on the Dolphin, rising to eight years on the drive motor and battery, the latter also extending out to 125,000 miles. 

BYD is also filling out its dealer network to ensure service and repair facilities are easier to access as it grows its UK presence.

Buy or lease the BYD Dolphin at a price you’ll love
We take the hassle and haggle out of car buying by finding you great deals from local and national dealers
RRP £30,195 - £31,695 Avg. Carwow saving £1,239 off RRP
Carwow price from
Cash
£28,986
Monthly
£303*
Ready to see prices tailored to you?
Compare new offers
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